LOS ANGELES — A woman accused of grooming teenage girls for the sexual pleasure of the head of La Luz del Mundo church has come forward and is now alleging through her attorney that she too was a victim.
Alondra Ocampo, who has reached a plea deal in the case set for trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court next month, suffered years of sexual abuse in the church as a minor, her attorney Fred Thiagarajah said.
Thiagarajah alleged in an interview that Ocampo was raped at age 8 by Samuel Joaquin Flores, a leader of La Luz del Mundo who was succeeded after his death in 2014 by his son, Naason Joaquin Garcia, the current head of the church. Both have been known by followers as "the apostle" of Jesus Christ.
Prosecutors have described Ocampo as someone who groomed girls who were later allegedly sexually assaulted by Garcia and coerced minors into pornographic photo shoots in hotel rooms in Whittier and El Monte. They've said the alleged victims were told that if they went against Garcia's desires as the apostle they were going against God.
Thiagarajah said that Garcia, who has pleaded not guilty to sex abuse charges, had instructed Ocampo to provide him girls as she led a service group by the church's East L.A. location. She did this, he said, out of fear and because she had been indoctrinated to believe that nothing mattered more than fulfilling Garcia's wishes.
"For many, many years, she believed that the abuse that she suffered wasn't even abuse — she thought it was a blessing," Thiagarajah said.
Representatives for Garcia and the church balked at her new claims. In a statement, Alan Jackson, Garcia's attorney, called Thiagarajah's allegations "an outrageous attempt to taint the jury pool."
"He and his client are desperately trying to curry favor with the prosecution by smearing my client in the press with salacious and false allegations," he said. "As he has done from the beginning, Mr. Garcia vehemently denies the allegations against him and expects a fair trial."
Jack Freeman, a spokesman for La Luz del Mundo, also said the church did not agree with the "patently false" claims made by Ocampo's attorney.
"Throughout this process, we have maintained our respect for the court system of the state of California, and today more than ever we publicly reaffirm that the Apostle is innocent and his innocence will be proven in a court of law, despite the unethical tactics employed by others," he said in a statement.